Fantasy Basketball: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 6
During the 82-game grind of an NBA season, every player has a number of hot and cold streaks. Sometimes, guys who typically sit near the end of a team's bench go off for a couple games and begin to look fantasy relevant. These opportunities are often brought on by injuries, and other times they just fall out of the sky without any warning or explicable reason why.
The slightest hint that some relatively-unknown or washed up player is heating up and might maintain that value leads to mad scrambles to the waiver wire, where we climb over each other at the chance to add guys like Vitor Faverani, Marco Belinelli, and Drew Gooden. Then, inevitably, the player du jour cools off and regresses to his usual mean and we cut bait for the next big thing.
This week has brought on some interesting examples of this - guys who look great right now but you might hate yourself for having added by Christmas. There are some players listed below that I never would've imagined mentioning this season in this column, but they've earned it. And, as fast as they've earned it, they could very well lose it again by next week. That's what makes the season-long game so fun, right? Hoping that somehow Rasual Butler will be this year's Terrence Jones or Gerald Green (waiver wire guys that maintained mid-round value all year long last year).
Let's hunt for some diamonds in the rough. Just don't hate me if Robert Covington doesn't end up being an All-Star.
Buy Draymond Green
The Golden State Warriors are riding high on a franchise record 12-game winning streak and Draymond Green is a large part of the reason why. In fact, his emergence this season is one of the main factors in their rise from fringe contenders to what arguably looks to be the best team in the league this year (at the very least, they rank at the top of our NBA Team Power Rankings).
On the season, Green is averaging 13.5 points, 1.9 triples, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks, and 2.2 turnovers per game while shooting 46.2% from the field and 73.5% from the line. That solid nine-category line makes him the 36th-ranked player and one of the late-round steals of fantasy drafts this season. He put up what was likely the stat line of the year on Saturday, pouring in 31 points with 7 triples and stuffing the rest of the stat sheet with 7 boards, 3 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks, and only 1 turnover.
With the return of former All-Star David Lee looming, there's a chance that Green's owner might be looking to sell high. If that's the case, you should be the one buying for one of your mid-round guys. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has hinted that Green will likely stay in the starting lineup and Lee will come off the bench once he returns. Even if Dray's minutes take a hit, he's such a solid per-minute performer that racks up the combination of threes, steals, and blocks better than just about anyone in the business, that he's still pretty much a lock for mid-round value as part of the league's most potent starting lineup..
It's the year of Draymond Green. Get on board while you still can.
Add/Buy Patrick Beverley
Patrick Beverley is consistently one of the most underrated point guards in fantasy, mostly due to the fact that he doesn't rack up a lot of assists (career average of 2.7 per game). That comes mostly from playing with James Harden, a ball-dominant shooting guard who is the team's de facto ball-handler.
Even with the lack of assists, Beverley is posting 57th-ranked value in his eight games played this year, on the strength of his well-rounded line of 13.4 points, 3.1 threes, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.4 blocks, and mere 1.1 turnovers per game, to go with 46.1% shooting from the field. He might not keep up that pace with the long ball all season long and his 60.0% free throw rate is a bummer, but he makes for a solid glue guy if you need a point guard and you're relatively set for assists.
He's still available in 26% of Yahoo leagues, but if he's already been snatched up or was being stashed in yours, you might still have a chance to buy him. His value tends to fly under the radar without any one consistently flashy category standing out in his line, so his price might not be as high as you think.
Buy Serge Ibaka
With both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook going down with injury early in the season, the thought was that the Thunder would be Serge Ibaka's team until the superstar duo came back. While Ibaka's usage rate is indeed as high as its ever been (22.5%), his fantasy returns haven't met expectations. After finishing in the top-11 in nine-category leagues in each of the last three seasons, Ibaka only sits as the 42nd-ranked player so far in 2014-15.
His scoring average is currently at a career-best 15.3 points per game, but the rebounding (7.7) is down and he's currently posting a career low in field goal percentage (45.1%) and the lowest blocks (2.2) since his rookie year. With KD and Russ now back in action, Ibaka can go back to roaming the floor a little more freely on offense and have the liberty to take a few more risks on defense. Over the last two games with the Thunder as a full unit once again, Ibaka has averaged 16.0 points, 1.0 triple, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, and only 1.5 turnovers, while shooting 52.4% from the field and 88.9% from the line.
Ibaka won't be long getting back up into being a first- or second-round value on a weekly basis, so buy low before your window slams shut.
Sell Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah was last year's Defensive Player of the Year and an All-NBA honoree, and has ranked in the top 20 in nine-category fantasy leagues in each of the last two seasons. He was an early-round draft pick this year as a result, but it simply doesn't look like he'll hit the value of that ADP this year.
He accomplished what he has over the last two years as the top dog for the Bulls while Derrick Rose was sidelined. Rose hasn't exactly been a healthy lock to play every game so far this year, but when he's on the court, it's still clearly his team. Throw in the rejuvenated start of newcomer Pau Gasol and heavily-bolstered depth up front, and one can see that the Bulls simply don't need to rely on Jo as much this year.
His current averages of 8.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game represent his lowest marks since 2008-09, and the remaining line of 4.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 1.5 blocks, and 48.4% shooting from the floor and 62.8% from the line (a career worst) barely buoys his value at 77th in nine-category leagues. If you can still sell him based on his name and previous success, you should probably do so.
Add Robert Covington
What, you've never heard of Robert Covington? The guy who played seven games for the Rockets last year and scored a grand total of 16 points? You know, the one that barely cracked the Sixers' rotation (yes, those Sixers) to earn significant minutes until a few games ago?
Well, that very same Robert Covington has averaged 21.0 points, 3.0 triples, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.3 turnovers per game over his last three, while shooting 55.0% from the floor and a perfect 10 for 10 from the line. He was a star in the D-League, but this still stands as being the definition of "out of nowhere." What's more, the Sixers have won two of those three games (again, yes, those Sixers).
Tony Wroten and Alexey Shved have both missed the three games in question, so even on this Philly squad that's mostly devoid of NBA talent, there's a chance that Covington's production might vanish as suddenly as it appeared when one or both of them return. For the time being, though, you might as well ride the hot hand and potentially be part of the legend that will surely come out of that week when Robert Covington was a top-15 fantasy play.
Drop Alec Burks
I get a lot of questions about dropping Alec Burks for Hot Free Agent X, so I'll do my best to answer them all here.
Go right ahead.
In his 18 games played so far this season, he still hasn't cracked standard-league value, coming in as the 160th-ranked player in nine-category leagues. That is despite starting for the Jazz and playing a healthy 33.7 minutes per game. Yes, he looks good as a basketball player and could break out for the Jazz at any moment, but his fantasy relevance just isn't cemented enough on 13.3 points, 0.8 threes, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and basically no defensive numbers to go with 2.2 turnovers per contest and a meagre 40.4% shooting rate.
He has a badly inflamed shoulder that looked to require season-ending surgery only a few days ago and now he's cleared for practice and listed as questionable for tonight's game. Even if he manages to stay on the court for a while, you're clearly dealing with damaged goods with Burks this year. He's still 53% owned in Yahoo leagues, but any of those people can safely drop him for Hot Free Agent X, Y, or Z.
Add Donatas Motiejunas
The Rockets have a lot of injuries in their frontcourt, so Donatas Motiejunas has had to eat up a lot of the power forward minutes and is doing well with them. As long as Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, and Kostas Papanikolaou all continue to miss time, Motiejunas will be worth an add.
Over his last four game, Motiejunas has averaged 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.0 block per contest, while shooting 62.8% from the field. Those are definitely useful numbers from someone only 22% owned in Yahoo leagues, but keep in mind that his low free throw percentage of 64.3% and high turnover average of 3.0 per game lower his value into the late rounds.
Sell Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler is playing absolutely bonkers basketball right now, averaging 12.4 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.5 blocks, and 1.6 turnovers over his last eight contests, while shooting 70.4% from the floor and 63.9% from the line. That makes him the 14th-ranked player in nine-category leagues over that period.
On the season, he sits at 16th overall, with scoring (11.3), rebounding (11.9), and block (1.5) numbers that are higher than he's had since 2007-08. You can ride the wave and be happy with your late-round selection and how it's turning out all you want, but it might be better to sell high while he's this hot.
Chandler's highest ever nine-category rating was 30th in 2011-12 and rarely do players put up what is by far their best fantasy season at age 32, like Chandler is doing now. On top of that, his durability issues have always been a cause for concern. He's missed over 20 games per season on average over the last six years and one has to believe that he'll miss at least a bit of time due to injury before 2014-15 is said and done. You'll probably never get a better chance to sell high for an early-round value.
Add Tyler Zeller
As a Kelly Olynyk apologist, this recommendation is hard to make, but you should probably go ahead and add Tyler Zeller right now (although I still believe in keeping Olynyk while he goes through this sophomore slump).
Zeller displaced Olynyk in the starting lineup five games ago, and he has been the 35th-ranked player in nine-category leagues since then, posting averages of 11.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 block, and only 0.6 turnovers, while shooting 62.5% from the floor and 93.8% from the line. Those numbers are impossible to leave on the wire for now, but monitor Olynyk's numbers and role closely, as he may earn his starting spot back before long.
Add Zach LaVine
Since Ricky Rubio is still about a month away from returning from his ankle sprain and Mo Williams is about to miss his third straight game tonight with a back injury, Zach LaVine becomes a player to pick up by default as the Wolves' starting point guard.
Over his last two games in the starting lineup, LaVine has posted early-round value with 19.5 points, 1.5 threes, 4.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.0 steal, and 2.0 turnovers per game, while shooting 51.9% from the floor and 80.0% from the line. That's worth riding with until the wheels fall off or one of the more experienced point guards comes back and displaces the rook.
Drop Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee has fallen back down to Earth after a blazing hot start. He was quickly looking like the early favorite for the waiver wire add of the season, flirting with first-round value over his first nine games. After missing a game on November 19th due to a virus being passed around the Grizzlies, Lee came back and has looked comparably pedestrian over the eight games that have followed. Just check out the difference:
|Courtney Lee||9-Cat Rank||PTS||3s||REB||AST||STL||BLK||FG%||FT%||TOV|
|First 9 Games||12th||14.9||2.0||3.3||2.3||1.2||0.2||56.6%||91.7%||0.9|
|Last 8 Games||130th||10.1||1.3||1.9||2.1||0.9||0.3||50.8%||71.4%||1.4|
That's what a mean being regressed to looks like.
You can move on from Lee if you feel like there's a free agent you must have on the waiver wire and you've got no one else you want to drop. That's not to say Lee won't maintain decent value the rest of the season, but it should probably be more in this late-round range (where he's been most of his career) than up in the stratosphere he was playing in before. At the very least, while his season-long value is still high (currently 50th in nine-category leagues), perhaps you can still manage to sell high on him to someone who hasn't noticed his drop off.
Add Rasual Butler
Yup, Rasual Butler is a thing in fantasy right now.
Over his last six games, Butler has been the 14th-ranked player in nine-category leagues (you read that correctly) on the strength of 17.2 points, 2.8 three-pointers, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 0.8 turnovers per contest, while shooting 54.9% from the field and 88.9% from the line. He was extremely inconsistent and, at times, invisible before this hot stretch, but now he seems to be a must-add, must-start kind of player. This hot streak has brought him all the way up to being the 62nd-ranked player on the season as a whole.
Who exactly saw that coming?
For now, you have to add him and see where this goes. Martell Webster seems close to making his regular season debut after having a back problem keep him out the whole season to date, so that will surely harpoon Butler's value. For now, those in need of some scoring, threes, and an overall solid nine-category line should give him a long, hard look.